Birth of a Shoe Obsessive – Guest Shoe Post by Christopher Phillips

HOW TO MEET FELLOW SHOE OBSESSIVES ON TWITTER

Once upon a time on Twitter I would religiously and daily:

  • check my new followers
  • say hi and refollow those new followers who appeared to be real people
  • block the spambots
  • list anyone who looked interesting & visit their blog, website and so on to find out more about them

Through time this has all become  a wee bit hard and without someone @replying me to say hello when they start following me on Twitter, I am unlikely to follow them back.  It is not you, it’s me and my lazy bastarditis.

I do notice lists though.  This week I popped up in two new ones maintained by @shrydar

Feminism

Shoes and Fashion

This intrigued me.  I wondered why a boy would be interested in shoes and fashion. So I struck up a conversation with Christopher and discovered that he loves high heeled shiny boots as much as I do.

I have never lusted after a man’s shoe collection before.

There is a first time for everything.

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Christopher Phillips - Programmer and Digital Artist

Birth of a Shoe Obsessive

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I haven’t always worn heels.

Time was, I rarely even noticed what shoes other people were wearing. That’s all changed now.

Back around the start of 2007 I started going to a goth/industrial nightclub that was frequented by a number of my friends.  I’d been meaning to for a while, but it took me a while to get past being a little intimidated by how fabulously many of them were dressed. I needn’t have worried; they were a friendly crowd, and a black t-shirt, black jeans, and black sneakers were easily enough to avoid looking like a tourist. I loved the music and the atmosphere, and started making a regular thing of it.

Amidst all the black t-shirts, black dresses, tight black pants, black corsets, big hair and platform boots there were maybe half a dozen regulars who stood out for finishing off their ensemble with calf length boots with sky high stiletto heels. I made my own impression by being “the guy with the hair” (it was well past waist length at the time), but at that stage I was mostly just trying to blend in with the crowd. I picked up a couple of pairs of designer label bondage pants and a shirt or two lightly sprinkled with D-rings, and was more than happy with my wardrobe.

Coincidentally, that was also the year I supplemented my weekly yoga classes with a weekly adult beginners ballet class – it had been advertised by a friend as being “perfect for strengthening muscles without building bulk, while promoting flexibility and grace…not to mention giving you abs to die for.” All these things were true. She’d also mentioned it being handy for any goths wanting wanting to develop the strength to wear those pointe boots and still be able to dance, but at the time that wasn’t a drawcard for me personally.

Then in December that year a friend ordered a pair of boots online, found they weren’t quite the right size, and put up a for-sale post on the local goth livejournal community. They were black, shiny and calf length, with a two inch platform and six inch heels. I thought they looked gorgeous. They were also my size. I prevaricated a bit, called my wife to say I was thinking about buying some second hand boots but wasn’t sure if my calves were skinny enough (she just asked if I’d looked down in the last ten minutes – I’d forgotten that my ankles are freakishly narrow), and spoke to friends about the shape of the heel. Some thought they didn’t quite suit, and they were probably right (the heels of most of the pairs I’ve acquired since have been slenderer), but despite that I decided to at least try them. Another friend of the seller had bid before me, but graciously withdrew when she heard of my interest. I dropped in to my friend’s house, tried them on, and bought them on the spot.

I debuted my new boots at New Years Eve, first at a friends house party (drinking copious quantities of iced water to stay cool – knee highs over bondage pants in the midst of Australian Summer is not particularly sensible even after sunset), then later that evening at another friend’s birthday bash at Luxe Bar. I was rather pleased to discover all those yoga and ballet classes had paid off – not only could I walk in them, but I could manage a quite passable gothic two-step in them too (the nearest many of us ever came to dancing).

That marked the beginning of something of an obsession. Over the following three years I acquired another dozen or so pairs, ranging up to a 7.5″ heel, all in black, usually with a heel to platform difference of four or five inches. Some have been second hand or hand-me-downs, others mail order, and a few of the pricier pairs from boutique and department stores. I’ve started occasionally splashing out on leather or suede, and the styles now range from elegant to the bizarre. Nowadays it just feels wrong to be dancing in anything under 4″ high. I spent six weeks traveling in 2009 with nothing more than hand-luggage, but still managed to fit two pairs of boots into my cabin bag. That’s without counting the suede pair with patent accents I picked up at Guess in Las Vegas, and had to post home before I even had a chance to wear them.

I still wear flat shoes or bare feet five or six days a week, but there are entire social circles who rarely see me thusly attired, unless I’m going out of my way to confound the expectations I’ve built.

I’ve had varied reactions from friend and relatives, and the occasional double-take from passers by. “But, those are women’s boots aren’t they?” Or, as a lady friend bluntly remarked at the birthday gathering I mentioned earlier, “You’re so gay!”

The thing is though, I don’t identify as a cross dresser (and, of course, even if I did that wouldn’t necessarily imply anything about my sexual preferences). I do engage in genderfuck (“the conscious effort to “fuck with,” play with, or mock traditional notions of gender identity, gender roles, and gender presentation.” )

Primarily, though, I just reject the classification of shoes along gendered lines. Walk into any alternative clothing store with a decent range, and you’ll see a selection of chunky creeper-soled boots labelled unisex, and some gorgeous heels labelled as women-only. I just refuse to stay on ‘my side’ of the aisle. Usually I’ll pair them with skinny unisex pants and a “guy’s” shirt – it makes for a gentler transition as people’s gaze goes from my feet to my beard – but I’m still toying with the rest of my wardrobe. Rewardingly, I’ve had more than a few remarks from people saying they can still tell I’m not actually trying to dress as a woman.

Not so many decades ago women wearing pants were denigrated for being “unladylike“. There is still the occasional office workplace demanding their female employees wear skirts – fortunately this is usually something I only hear about when said employer is being laughed out of court. In earlier centuries high heels were a mark of the upper class rather than of a particular gender; I just want to reclaim them for me, and perhaps introduce others to the idea that people can dress outlandishly by the standards of the day without the sky falling on our collective heads.

I wear heels because I love the look, because I like playing with expectations, and because it’s a great conversation starter. Mostly, though, I wear heels because I can.

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To see more of Christopher’s footwear acquisitions click here

6 thoughts on “Birth of a Shoe Obsessive – Guest Shoe Post by Christopher Phillips

  1. Traditionally heels were worn by the rich to rise above the blood & quagmire in ancient meat markets… And by priests to give height & dominance to the spiritual & energetic acts they were performing…

    You are using them to break down gender barriers and challenge (mis)conceptions of fashion…

    Ergo it is entirely appropriate (& highly commendable) that you’re performing such noble deeds in those glorious shoes 🙂

    Thank you 🙂

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